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Affinity Nurses Picket Over Concerns About Safety, Staffing

WSKU.org, 12/4/13

A group of registered nurses were part of informational pickets Tuesday outside Affinity Medical Center, claiming the need for a labor contract with Community Health Systems, which owns the hospital.

 

Registered nurses at Affinity Medical Center are calling for a labor deal with the hospital and drew attention to their points through informational pickets late Tuesday afternoon.


More than a dozen nurses and supporters held signs on the west side of the hospital, along a sidewalk at Amherst Road NE and Commonwealth Avenue NE. They cited the need for a labor contract with Community Health Systems, which owns Affinity, and claimed short staffing levels and lack of equipment negatively impact patient care and safety.


"We're letting the people know we're still here and will fight for safe patient care and more staff," said Michelle Offenberger, an RN at Affinity.

 

Nurses said Affinity is short on assistants who help bathe patients and walk them to the restroom. In addition, the hospital lacks equipment, such as thermometers and blood-pressure cuffs, they said.


"We're overwhelmed with patients and can't be all places at the same time," said Tamara Wiseman, an Affinity nurse for 10 years.


Susan Koosh, vice president of marketing and community relations at Affinity, said via email Tuesday that the hospital is committed to providing high-quality health services for the community, and considers safety and providing excellent care for patients high priorities.


"We schedule our staff according to the number and needs of the patients in our care," Koosh said. "We have many tenured nurses on our team, and work to pair new nurses with those who have more experience."


Those picketing shouted messages appearing on the signs they carried. Some signs stated, "Respect RN Rights," "Help RNs Help You. Support A Contract" and "Safe Staffing Saves Lives." A number of passers by in their vehicles honked horns to show support.


Some of the nurses are represented by the National Nurses Organizing Committee in Ohio, which is an affiliate of National Nurses United.


Michelle Mahon, a representative for NNU in Cleveland, said a disproportionate number of new or inexperienced Affinity nurses are working in intensive care units and in emergency departments, which can affect patient safety.


"Our best interest is with the patients and community," Mahon said. "We want skilled nurses to stay at the hospital. It's important that the community understands that RNs at Affinity do care."


Ten percent of Affinity's ICU and emergency nurses are new or hired in the past year, Koosh said in the email, adding that ICU nurses receive a 12-week orientation.


"Our emergency department was recently re-certified as a trauma center, and we have accredited chest pain center status (there), too," said Koosh. "Both of these certifications require strong evidence of advanced practices and skilled staffing."


Similar protests or events were scheduled Tuesday at a half dozen other hospitals owned by CHS in Ohio, California, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Mahon said. About 1,400 nurses were represented in the combined events.

By Steven M. Grazier
Independent staff writer

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